Job Well Done: Recognizing Our Industry’s Talent

Nov. 21, 2017
One of the best things about our industry is seeing how it attracts bright young people, and then seeing them flourish

One of the best things about our industry is seeing how it attracts bright young people, and then seeing them flourish through the mentorship of people with a passion for aviation. The 40 young men and women featured in this AMT Next Gen Awards special issue are excellent examples.

These young men and women come from all sectors of the aviation industry and represent the spectrum of career levels — from a student all the way up to a business owner — and hail from around the world.

Of course, I’m particularly proud that a number of employees from GAMA member companies are on this year’s list, including Nathan Alvar and Stephen Dodd of Cirrus Aircraft, Travis Geist, Jamie Harder, and Kasey Harwick of Duncan Aviation; and Daniel Walker of StandardAero.

It’s especially important that our industry work together to ensure we have a strong workforce for the future, to fill the ranks of those who engineer, manufacture, pilot, and maintain our aircraft. Thanks to studies conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute in 2005, 2011, and 2015, we know there is a coming shortage in the aviation field, largely due to a skills gap in the U.S. manufacturing sector. While this is clearly not a new issue, it is an important one.

The good news is that many in our industry and in the education sector recognize this, and have created programs or invested in aerospace education. As AMT readers know, most who enter the aviation field as a career do so initially through general aviation. That’s why GAMA and its member companies are particularly concerned about this issue, and are finding ways to help solve the problem.

GAMA is proud to again offer our science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) Aviation Design Challenge competition for U.S. high school students. Over the past five years, we’ve enhanced students’ STEM knowledge, through aviation, at nearly 400 high schools throughout the country. This year, we opened registration for our 2018 competition on National Aviation Day in mid-August, and I’m excited to say that registration filled up in less than two months! Next semester, 130 schools from 34 states will compete for a chance to experience general aviation manufacturing first hand. It will be our largest competition participation since we started the program in 2013, and 105 schools of the 130 registered have not competed in the program before.

I remember the excitement I felt as a young boy flying in the skies above Wisconsin, as a high schooler learning how to slip a cub while preparing to solo, as a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy parachuting, flying gliders, and studying aerospace engineering, and, most vividly, as an Air Force officer flying fighter jets all over the world, all before the age of 40. There’s something magical about aviation, which I was lucky enough to experience as a young man and still never take for granted after a half-century of flying. These outstanding men and women know it, too, and they are our industry’s future.

Congratulations to all of the winners, and to Aircraft Maintenance Technology for recognizing their achievements. I look forward to seeing what they accomplish in the years to come, and the next generation of leaders they inspire to join our industry.